War. Huh. Yeah.

Posted: January 1, 2011 in film, me

What is it good for?
Embedded journalists engaging in a spot of career-boosting I’m-hard-as-fook, one-upmanship,it appears.
And making documentaries.

Shot between May 2007 and July 2008 by American journalist Sebastien Junger (he of The Perfect Storm fame) and British warzone photographer Tim Hetherington in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan – the Korangal Valley – Restrepo is vicious in its simplicity.
Named after 20-year-old medic Doc Restrepo, killed early in his deployment with the small outfit, the film snaffled the Grand Jury Prize last year for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
It follows a year in the life of a gang of soldiers defending the outpost they’ve created in the valley, known as OP Restrepo (Outpost Restrepo).

The film is apolitical to a fault – every young man here is fighting for his buddy.
Reasons as to why they are in this hellhole, or even in Afghanistan at all, are not explored. The idea is to embed with the soldiers and show that life for them is a cyclical operation of boredom, terror, death and hard graft.
And the footage is stunning. The camera is practically down the barrel of guns as they fire at, and kill, the enemy.
While the deaths of some soldiers were most likely caught on film, they are not shown – the aftermath, however, is.
One incredible scene sees a young soldier told that his friend, who is not 5 yards away, has been hit and killed.

So, you get the picture. War is hell. Junger and Hetherington are hard bastards who care more about their film than about their personal safety. But does the apolitical stance of a film like this make it absolutely political? When I watched it, what went through my head was “why the fuck are they there?”, “why did they join the army?”, “why are they playing war video games on PSPs?”….It seems insane that someone would choose this.
And for what? OP Restrepo was built to defend an area in which a road was being constructed – a road that would help locals move goods around, give better, quicker access. The soldiers never question this. They are ‘at work’. That’s it. Watching a documentary like this, you form bonds in your mind with certain soldiers. The way they just go about their business and handle the fact that every day of work is potentially their last, is shocking. There are jokers, musicians, showmen and grunts. They are all in it together. And when they get home, they’ve lost friends and limbs.

A sneaky peeky at the upcoming Kanye video for one of the best tracks this year off one of the best albums of the year.

Tyler from Odd Future was spitting on Twitter a while ago. This is exactly what he would do if he had money….

Ego The Trip

Posted: December 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

And so in the space a few weeks Steve Coogan arrived back into the world of ‘proper’ comedy – as opposed to bad Hollywood comedy – twice, in the form of…well…himself, in The Trip, and one Alan Partridge in the new Fosters-sponsored online shorts.

Knowing me, Alan Partridge, knowing you, suspicious and cynical viewer, Aha.

The Trip was shunted onto the unusual timeslot of late on a Monday night. Maybe you had just been bludgeoned over the head by the humourless lump of Pat Kenny and were faced with a repeat of the Late Late Show, whose programme title describes its condition perfectly. Twice.

But the time slot was probably because it was a semi-improvised six-part series with no particular set-pieces other than Rob Brydon and Coogan travelling from restaurant to restaurant, having an ‘impression-off’ of sorts and playing versions of themselves that I imagine are incredibly close to who they are and how they really interact with each other. It was glorious.

Not laugh-a-minute glorious but just quality stuff. Directed with panache by Michael Winterbottom, subtly played by its ‘stars’ and with plenty of nods to the fragile egos of ‘talented people’.

Coogan plays a damaged egomaniac who knows his best work/character has been done and now he must struggle to succeed further as an artiste…or simply as a very famous star. Neither seems to be working out. Brydon plays himself as the loveable everyman who gives his audience what they want, loves doing it, is happy to have a career at all and is the proud father of a young child as well as an enthusiastic husband in a seemingly happy marriage.

Coogan is clearly a very self-aware man, to a fault, and perhaps this programme is the catharsis he needs but he really goes for his own jugular on more than one occasion. In the third episode, in a scene reminiscent of DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Coogan is shirtless, brushing his teeth and desperately trying, and failing, to do Brydon’s acclaimed ‘small man in a box’ voice. It’s a painful scene but it sums up the show very well.

As for the return of Partridge – it’s wonderful. Alan is doing digital radio for North Norfolk and these 10-13 minute weekly pieces are vintage Partridge. Without having to worry about character development, Ianucci and Coogan are just banging out Partridge-isms with style and verve and it’s high quality stuff.

As for the Fosters sponsorship, which has had some people up in arms, who cares? They paid a stack of cash, it’s a great show, more power to it. Fosters still tastes like shite anyway no matter how much I agree with their ‘bring back Partridge’ policy.

Long live Coogan!

 

Check my French

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Yeah my shirt got a fuckin’ wolf on, what you know about that, hipster muthafukka?

Following the nod from Benny, The Fader and now Wire magazine, it looks like Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All are going places real fast – that said, the places they go will likely involve hard drugs, sex crimes, homophobia, murder and skateboarding.

Welcome to the world of a bunch of teenagers with 8 free albums available on their homepage who combine the depravity of Gravediggaz with the swagger of N*E*R*D’s skate-rap aesthetic and Cadence Weapon’s distinctive enunciation with a bit of ’98 Eminem chucked in for jokes yo.

The quality of the work, all released in the last few years, is staggering, with huge bass, incredible lyrical dexterity and jaw-droppingly horrendous subject matter followed by pantaloon-crappingly horrendous subject matter.

This is not for the faint-hearted. Conversely, if you enjoy hearing about nun-rape, this is for you.

And to be fair, if you’re easily offended, you probably don’t have a lot of hip-hop in your collection though, eh?

Seemingly made up of a collective of angry character-playing California kids (Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, Mike G, Casey Veggies, Taco, Jasper and producers Left Brain, Tyler the Creator and Super 3 along with a few others) they have produced some astonishingly accomplished hip-hop with the usual interlude bits, messy youtube channel and a refreshing DIY attitude.

Get over to their site, download the albums (Domo Genesis has a new one out now called Rolling Papers) and get stuck in.

I’d recommend Earl himself as a starting point. He’s 16. Prepare to vomit.

Fuck Steve Harvey.

http://oddfuture.com/

Phone publishing grainy fox pic

Posted: June 26, 2010 in me, Uncategorized
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Tester

Fast tracks #1: Ikonika

Posted: May 9, 2010 in music, Uncategorized
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Every so often a song can jump out and grab you by the backside, give you a little squeeze on your right cheek and make you feel like everything is going to be ok – this one from Sara Abdel-Hamid, A.K.A. Ikonika, is one such track.

It’s a bleeping chunk of dubstep with a nice bit of wobble that should be blared good and loud in preparation for our eight-minute summer, which is sure to show up soon, eh? Eh?

Naturally, Ikonika is on the Hyperdub label and her album Contact, Love, Want, Have was released last month.

Ikonika – Idiot


Film catch-up

Posted: January 29, 2010 in film, me
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Somehow, events have conspired to allow me to have actually seen a lot of films so far this year – some new, some from last year – and here is what I thought.

The Road

Has been a little divisive. Ultimately, this is a story about humanity and the way a father’s humanity is slightly restored by his gerbil-faced son in the face of horrendous, soul-crushing apocalyptic circumstances. Also the ‘woman’ of the film (Charlize Theron, fully clothed,unlike that perfume ad) goes for a bit of a walk and doesn’t come back. The kid says “Papa, Papa” quite a bit. Does Cormac McCarthy hate women? Probably not. It’s relentlessly grim but I found it gripping. We all know humanity is horrible in general but there are some good people out there right? Cannibalism usually does it for me in the ‘scary as fook’ department too. Viggo’s penis, naturally, makes an appearance early on. Thanks Viggo.

District 9

Stars the guy who will play Murdoch in the new A-Team film. Kind of like Aliens meets Menace II Society. Aliens are ghettoised in Jo’burg (not to be confused with Jo’Burger – unlikely that a million aliens would be ghettoised in an over-priced gourmet burger joint in Baile Atha Cliath) and it’s time to move them to a bigger camp before the locals start getting really mad. Very funny moments in a  well-made, fast-paced sci-fi flick. Also, the South Africans say ‘fuck’ like Jackeens. Ya bleedin’ dope ya.

Inglourious Basterds

Sublime. An OTT actioner with no real factual basis made by a man who loves films and sees it as the purest form of entertainment. Features two set-pieces up there with the best of them – particularly the opening scene. Christoph Waltz is nothing short of spell-binding and, without spoiling things too much, it’s always great to see Hitler in films and especially to see him get machine-gunned in the face. A ridiculously enjoyable romp.

Antichrist

More cock. Jesus, will I ever stop seeing penises in films? Bacon, DeNiro, Farrell, Mortensen, Keitel, Defoe – the list goes on. Antichrist is Lars Von Trier’s ode to the quagmire of dark depression, written while in the throes of it. What he produces here is a staggeringly, often impenetrably, personal piece of work, featuring some of the most beautifully shot sequences you’ll see in film. It is also hugely pretentious and ambitious but somehow Von Trier, and the two wonderful actors, Defoe and Gainsbourg, manage to convince. There’s also a talking fox, always a bonus if you’re watching a film in which a penis ejaculates blood and a woman cuts of her bits with a scissors. A film that is as beautiful as it is awful.

Daybreakers

Another vampire film in which most of the world have become vamps (thanks to a virus, I think) and humans are running out. Ethan Hawke (the novelist and sometime actor) is a vampire scientist working on a blood substitute and Sam Neill is probably the first corporate vampire I’ve seen in the films. Willem Defoe pops up again, johnson inside his pants this time. Pretty rubbish but I always enjoy a vampire film so it was quite watchable.

Moon

Sam Rockwell in a tour-de-force performance as an astronaut in the future, stationed for a 3 year stint on the moon, mining for a Helium-3, a clean energy source used back on Earth. Suffice it to say that things get a little confusing for Sam and his ‘visitor’ and what evolves is a brilliant story, very simple, but expertly handled by the director- David Bowie’s son – Zowie Bowie (who boringly calls himself Duncan Jones now?).Kevin Spacey as the voice of Hal…I mean Gerty…manages not to ruin it all with his nasal, snarky tones and this is one of the best films of last year. Gripping stuff.

Anvil

’80s rock band from Canada trying to get a big label deal for their new album. This is basically a love story featuring the singer, Lips, and the drummer, Robb Reiner, and their struggle to get some credit for years of rocking. Famous talking heads like Lars ‘The Twat’ Ulrich and Slash pop up to sing Anvil’s praises and it seems tha band were just a bit unlucky with their timing as every important metal band seems to love them. Does it work out for them in the end? You’ll have to watch. *does devil horns*

Precious

I’ve seen less misery on Eastenders. A great performance from Gabourey Sidibe in the title role as a down-trodden, obese teen, pregnant with her second child by her rapist father, living with her poisonous mother and just trying to survive. Light appears through the darkness in the form of a new school and a teacher who really wants to help Precious learn to read and write. Harrowing stuff with some fantasy sequences that are completely necessary in the insanely grim story. Not as good as everyone is saying but I suppose Hollywood loves a ‘triumph over adversity’ tale, eh? Worth a look though.

Up In The Air

Clooney is smooooooth as a professional ‘firer’ working for a company that other companies hire to sack employees. Clooney loves air travel and has little-to-no connection with his family…or anyone. Needless to say he meets a woman and a plucky, ambitious younger employee and things begin to ch….blah blah blah.Who cares? This has been massively overrated and is the kind of film that would be great to watch on TV some night but that’s about it. Clooney is on cruise-control and there are some funny lines but nowt too fantabulous. Not as good as Thank You For Smoking or Juno, Jason Reitman’s last directorial efforts.

Un Prophete

Wonderful tale of a young French jailbird’s journey behind bars, and outside them, through the world of the Corsican mafia and organised crime in general. Malik (Tahar Rahim) is great as the naive young dogsbody in jail who gets wrapped up in some horrendous Corsican activity and starts to make a name for himself amongst the Arabs and Corsicans alike in jail, and indeed out of jail. Another film, like Precious and Inglourious Basterds, that remembers the medium and throws in some excellent cinematic flourishes to serve the plot and also because they look good. We don’t need to be beaten to death with the frying pan of cinéma vérité every single day, y’know. Excellent film – pure Scorsese stuff and straight into place as my favourite of 2010 so far.

Avatar

Plot=shit. Dialogue=clunky. So what? If you want plot/dialogue go to something else. If you want your puny mind blown to smithereens by whopping great pterodactyls swooping over your head in 3D, then this is for you. The effects are a cinematic milestone and I was giddy as a child for the whole thing. Even the parts not set in the jungles of the alien planet, Pandora, look amazing in 3D. A visual masterpiece. I can’t overstate that.If your mind doesn’t boggle at the 3D then there is something wrong with you. Why don’t you go to Laser and pontificate loudly how derivative Avatar’s plot is and how you’d rather watch Le Quatre Cents Coups instead? While you’re there, slit your wrists from the hand up to where your arm bends, not sideways. Better wound to bleed to death from.

Paranormal Activity

Hi, 12-year-old Adam. Are you terrified of things like daemons, demons, magick, poltergeists, Ouija boards, ghosts, possession, crashing noises in the dead of night and no escape from the horrors of the Underworld.

Here’s Paranormal Activity. Enjoy.

Honourable mentions to a few films I saw at the end of 2009 that may arrive here soon: The Cove (moving, powerful documentary about dolphin-slaughter in Japan) and Triangle (clever horror/thriller set on a deserted ship starring Melissa ‘Angel from Home&Away’ George, also an excellent film)




Poifecto

Posted: January 6, 2010 in holidays, me
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How was the Christmas?

The weather’s fierce hah?

Jesus, these runners are shite in the snow and ice.

More importantly though, did you have that moment during Christmas where everyone else was in the other room; there’s a gentle murmur of conversation seeping under the door and you were sat in front of the fire with a massive gin & tonic in one of those heavy-based tumblers usually reserved for whiskey when featured in an episode of Columbo where he is chatting to the suspect in their apartment and they offer him a drink (which he declines) and they have one for themselves?

Have you seen the Columbo with Johnny Cash in it?

In that single moment, you forgot any distant problems you had. You were alone but not alone at all. You were drunk but not really that drunk. If you had to interact with shop-keepers or publicans you’d be fucked but you just feel like you’ve a warm glow to your pasty skin and could compete at a mediocre level in a game of Scrabble.

Trivial Pursuit might involve saying things like ‘Burkina Faso’ or ‘photosynthesis’ so best avoid that.

There’s a few days left, you’ve gotten books you like, you reckon you did a good job getting presents everyone else liked and you are not obliged to go anywhere or do anything you don’t want to do.

It’s snowing outside.

And now you’re singing that Martine McCutcheon ‘Perfect Moment’ song in your woozy mind.

It was going well until that, eh?

Difficult to do these things when you have listened to (and missed) such a huge wealth of music this year.

But, just to throw my hat in the ring, here are some albums I enjoyed alot this year.

Enter your disgust at my exclusion of Dirty Projectors at the bottom. For the record, I like the album, I just don’t love it.

I’ve left this quite late so I shan’t do any blurbs for the moment.

Animal Collective – MPP

Grizzle Bizzle – Veckatimest

Raekwon – OBFCLII

DOOM – Born like this

DM Stith – Heavy Ghost

Washed Out – Life of Leisure

Dieter Moebius – Kram

Fever Ray – s/t

St Vincent – Actor

Prefuse 73 – Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian

Wavves – Wavvves

PJ Harvey and John Parish – A Woman a Man walked by

Shackleton – 3 EPs

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

The Antlers – Hospice

Bonnie Prince Billy – Beware

Telepathe – Dance Mother

Mos Def – The Ecstatic

Cass McCombs – Catacombs

Tune-yards – Bird-brains

Bill Callahan – Sometimes I wish we were an eagle

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

Hunter – Gatherer – I Dreamed I Was A Footstep In The Trail Of A Murderer

Grass Widow – s/t

Sunn 0))) – Monoliths & Dimensions (one of the important ones from earlier in the year that I had written down and forgotten to put here coz I’m an idiot. Thanks Darragh)